With the news that the new Power Rangers movie will feature an LGBTQ hero, the franchise feels as though it's setting precedents within some crucial, unexplored territory. Though Director Dean Israelite confirmed that the reveal of the Yellow Ranger's sexuality in the movie is a "pivotal" yet "small moment," there's no doubt that it's importance will be felt by LGBTQ audiences everywhere. And if you need any convincing on why the sexuality of the Yellow Ranger (named Trini, and played by Becky G in the movie) is so important, then you need only read original Blue Ranger David Yost's essay about the power of LGBTQ representation to understand why. After all, this is a man who knows what he's talking about.
Back in the '90s, Yost played Billy, the Blue Power Ranger, and the actor faced a challenging period during his time on, and after, the show due to his struggle with his own sexuality. In a guest post written for The Hollywood Reporter, he described the difficulty of being a gay actor in the '90s, saying:
When I first moved to Hollywood in the '90s to be an actor, it was still considered taboo to be gay, especially if you wanted to be a leading actor in TV series or film. If you were gay, you certainly were not allowed to make it public. And if you did, you were essentially shooting yourself in the foot, because you're not going to get any roles.
Yost then continued to describe how he was "struggling so much" with "not being true" to himself in order to appease the standards of society and the industry he wanted to work in. All of which led him to live a "life that wasn't fulfilling and constantly filled with lies."
It's an emotional and powerful account that doesn't spare any of the pain that Yost must have experienced as a young LGBTQ Hollywood actor, who was forced to essentially live a lie in order to thrive. But the harrowing details of his own experience that he generously shares with the publication further prove the necessity for greater LGBTQ representation within the media.
As well as writing about trying conversion therapy after he left Power Rangers (something that he attributes as contributing to his "nervous breakdown"), Yost also talks about the "upswing of teenage suicides" that were happening around 2010 when he decided to speak out publicly about his own struggles, stating:
There were at least three times where I really contemplated killing myself very seriously while I was on the show. When I saw and read what people were telling these poor kids, like that they are bad and against God, it really hurt my heart. I just wanted to step forward and say, "I've struggled with this, but I want you to know that you can get through this and you're not a bad person."
Which is why it's so essential for viewers to be able to see their own lives and experiences given value and expression on screen. Crucially, it serves as a powerful reminder to those challenged by their own identity that they are normal, beautiful, and valuable however they identify.
But such representation also provides a bold, visual statement on what society should consider to be normal and acceptable. While it would be exquisite to live in a world in which we were all accepted, unconditionally, for our identities, that sadly isn't always the case. And the more visibility that is granted to the LGBTQ community in the media we consume, the more society can engage with the idea that there's nothing strange, or unhealthy about being LGBTQ. In fact, it's simply human. You know, if you haven't already gotten the memo.
As Yost beautifully puts it in his piece, "The more Hollywood puts lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, questioning, intersex characters in a film or TV show, it helps people understand and see that people are just people." And, when it comes to a franchise like Power Rangers, it shows that sometimes those people have the potential to be superheroes, too.